Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fallen Guard's Mom, A woman of courage and love

When I talk to people doing this kind of work, I thank them for being a member of this Army of love. That's really all it takes. A love so deep that everything else is set aside. We all have our political differences, which seem to attract the spotlight of the media, but the spotlight of the soul is found within the volunteers who step forward, set political differences aside, for all the warriors. They are no different than the wounded they fight for. They come from the left and they come from the right. They come in all skin colors and all income brackets. They come to make a difference for those who are willing to do so much for us.

I remembered reading about Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey along with several other stories about Iraqi trainees turning around and killing their US trainers.

This is what happened

Sergeant Patrick R. McCaffrey, Sr. (May 26, 1970–June 22, 2004) was a United States Army soldier killed in Iraq.

McCaffrey was born in Palo Alto, California. He was a U.S. Army soldier who joined the United States National Guard the day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and was assigned to the 579th Engineer Battalion, based in Petaluma, California.

On June 22, 2004, McCaffrey was on a patrol with Iraqi Security Forces officers when the two U.S. soldiers were killed, initially thought by the Iraqi insurgents in an ambush near Balad, Iraq. However, witnesses reported that members of the Iraqi Security Forces accompanying McCaffrey's unit opened fire. At the same time, a third gunman simultaneously drove up to the American unit in a van, climbed onto the vehicle and fired at the soldiers.

McCaffrey's mother Nadia McCaffrey was dissatisfied with the findings by the United States Army of her son's death and asked Senator Barbara Boxer for assistance to pressure the Pentagon for answers about the case. Nadia McCaffrey stated, "I really want this story to come out; I want people to know what happened to my son, there is no doubt to me that this (ambushes by attached Iraqi units) is still happening to soldiers today, but our chain of command is awfully reckless; they don’t seem to give a damn about what’s happening to soldiers." "He was killed by the Iraqis that he was training. People in this country need to know that."[1]

On June 20, 2005, the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division concluded that the Iraqi Security Forces officers patrolling with them had killed McCaffrey. [2]

McCaffrey was promoted posthumously to sergeant.,_Sr._and_Andre_D._Tyson

McCaffrey's son, Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey, a National Guard soldier, was killed by the Iraqi troops he was training in 2004.

A soldier who served in the National Guard with McCaffrey's son volunteered to redeploy to Iraq in July rather than cope with the transition to civilian life, said McCaffrey, who has kept in touch with soldiers who served with her son. The soldier, whom McCaffrey did not name, had taken to heavy drinking and risky behavior as he attempted to settle back into civilian life, McCaffrey said.

Could you imagine the kind of pain this mother went through? What did she do? She made sure she knew what happened to her son and once she found out, she was still not satisfied in just thinking about her own son, her own loss. She reached out to move some mountains in the way of those who survive to make it back home.

Land donation opens door for Veterans' Village plan
By Jake Armstrong
Record Staff Writer
October 12, 2007 6:00 AM
TRACY - An unexpected donation of land and a four-story building in Sonoma County has ramped up a Tracy woman's plans for a retreat center to segue soldiers from the battlefield to civilian life.
The building, in final phases of construction on a wooded hillside outside idyllic Guerneville, and 2 acres of farmland will serve as a pilot location for Nadia McCaffrey's Veterans' Village, a self-sustaining counseling and job-training center for armed forces members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
A World War II veteran, who wants to remain anonymous, made the donation late last month after hearing McCaffrey speak in Petaluma two months ago about her vision for the Veterans' Village program.
"He is a veteran himself. He understands what they are going through when they come home," McCaffrey said.
Contact reporter Jake Armstrong at (209) 239-3368 or
go here for the rest

We speak often of courage and some of us will remember the words of Christ when he talked about there being no greater love than the willingness to lay down one's life for the sake of another. That is what women like Nadia McCaffrey do. They set aside their own personal lives, their own needs for the sake of others. It was not just the physical life Jesus was talking about and when you read the rest of his words, you know he meant to set aside yourself for someone else. When he was quoted in the Bible he was addressing the fact that he knew he would set aside his physical life for "the sake of his friends" but everything else addressed the sense of self. Nadia will not only reach men and women right now, but for generations to come and generations of the past because they will also notice they are loved as well.

What began my attention to this piece, beyond the human interest part, was soldier she would not name. He wanted to go back because he couldn't adjust to civilian life after. This I still hear from Vietnam veterans. They wanted to go back because they changed from the civilian the day they set foot in Vietnam. They left their "safe" world to enter into another world of death and horror. They no longer felt as if they belonged in this "peaceful" side of life. They didn't want to keep risking their lives but they didn't want to feel like an outsider here as well. They belonged to neither world.

Some adjusted back fairly easily but others, it was damn near impossible. As the levels of PTSD are rated, so too are the levels of adjusting back into normal. Most of us grew up with either a WWII veteran, Korean Veteran or Vietnam veteran, and know how quiet they were about what they were a part of. We know how differently they acted, but never knew why.

My father-in-law, was a veteran of WWII. He had a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, yet aside from funny stories about his time at war, he never talked about any of it, not even to his son, my husband, who is a veteran of Vietnam. You would think they would at least speak to each other about but they didn't. His father said, "get over it" when it came to the combat brought back with him from the jungles and the memories of Camp Evans and Camp Eagle. But as the pictures he took faded, the memories did not. (I find it ironic that he can remember names and faces he knew over thirty years ago, but he cannot remember what he had for dinner or if he took his pills or not.)

We need to make a path for them to come home and feel that they do belong back home within this nation they risked their lives for. We need to find a place in our days to do something for them even if it is to offer kindness, a prayer or a warm smile when you see them in uniform. Each one of us can do so much for them if we "lay down" at least part of our lives for them. I'm not saying you should do what I do. Most people think I'm nuts doing this 10 to 12 hours a day for free. I only do it because I can and because I fell in love with a Vietnam vet 25 years ago. I do it for him. In their eyes, I see him. I remember what he went through and is still going through but I also remember their families going through what I went through. If I didn't have the tool of knowledge and the deep faith, I doubt I would have been doing any of this. I wouldn't be able to. Had I not met Jack, I wouldn't have been touched so deeply by these rare men and women.

What I am suggesting is that if the rest of us 283 million people in this country took care of the 17 million combat veterans, their lives would no longer be trapped between two worlds, but would find home with all of us again.

I found this story from the PTSD Combat blog of Ilona Meagher, who also wrote a fantastic book on PTSD, Moving a Nation To Care. She is one more of the people who set aside her life for the sake of others. Visit her blog and see with your own eyes how much love she has for our combat veterans. Ilona Meagher

Put Ilona with Nadia and then ask yourself what you can do for them to help them heal. Begin by finding out what you can about PTSD and then listen. Remember what you learned and then if you hear a parent speak of the changes, speak up and let them know what PTSD is. You can be a part of moving the rest of this nation to care.

Kathie Costos
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington
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  1. Dear Cathie,
    WOW...what an honor! Thank you for you work and the article...
    I was somewhat embarassed reading such words...
    Everything that I do is in Patrick's name to try to help others, this is what he has done with his short life, helping others.
    Patrick is my motivation, through him I will make a difference for our children to survive.
    In Peaceful Service.
    Nadia McCaffrey Gold Star Mom for Sgt Patrick Ryan McCaffrey Sr

  2. The honor was reading what you were doing. What I do is because of my husband. He's a Vietnam vet with PTSD. I've been doing this since we met 25 years ago.

    Look how far you've come and what you've managed to do in such a short time! It is wonderful and the love you have shows in what you do. Your son would be very proud I'm sure because you want to give to people who will never even meet you to thank you. Things like this will help now with this new generation, but it is also helping the older generation to understand they are loved as well. God Bless what you are doing, but I think He already did.


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